Alice Sebold rape case film dropped after exoneration of wrongly accused Anthony Broadwater

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A film adaptation of author Alice Sebold’s 1999 memoir accusing Anthony Broadwater of rape has been dropped after the Black man was exonerated on Monday, over two decades removed from his wrongful imprisonment of 16 years.

Sebold, who is white, detailed the alleged assault in her book “Lucky,” which was set to be retold on the big screen until the namesake movie was abandoned after losing financing “months ago,” Variety recently reported.

In “Lucky,” Sebold detailed being raped and beaten in May 1981 as an 18-year-old freshman at Syracuse University. The award-winning novelist wrote that the attack occurred while she was walking home through a park near campus, according to the New York Post.

Sebold’s memoir was set to be turned into a movie starring Victoria Pedretti as Sebold. However, amid news of Broadwater’s exoneration, it is unclear if the project is still in the works.

Sebold issued a terse “No comment” through her publisher, Scribner, when asked by The New York Times to respond to Broadwater’s exoneration. The publisher says they have no plans to update the memoir in light of the new information.

Broadwater, now 61, was 20-years-old when he was arrested and charged with forcible rape because police claimed he was in the area at the time, according to the Post

Sebold wrote in the memoir that she testified against Broadwater at trial. Additionally, microscopic hair analysis (now considered junk science by the U.S. Department of Justice, per the report) linked him to the assault.

He spent more than 16 years in state prison before being released in 1999 and has since remained on New York state’s public sex offender registry.

“Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction,” Broadwater’s attorney David Hammond told the Post-Standard of Syracuse.

As reported by the New York Times, Sebold’s novel directly led to the re-examination of Broadwater’s case after Netflix producer Timothy Mucciante, hired to turn the book into a movie, took a closer look at the case and started to believe in his innocence — leading to the involvement of a private investigator and the Syracuse-based firm CDH Law.

“I started having some doubts, not about the story that Alice told about her assault, which was tragic, but the second part of her book about the trial, which didn’t hang together,” said Mucciante, who left his role as executive producer for the Netflix project in June due to his doubts about the way the story was being told, per the Times. 

This paved the way for Broadwater’s conviction being overturned after Hammond and defense attorney Melissa Swartz exposed flaws at the original trial. As part of their efforts, he’ll also be removed from the sex offender registry.

“I never, ever, ever thought I would see the day that I would be exonerated,” Broadwater said after his court appearance in Syracuse on Monday, the Post-Standard reported.

“I’ve been crying tears of joy and relief the last couple of days,” he told Associated Press on Tuesday. “I’m so elated, the cold can’t even keep me cold.”

Months after the attack, Sebold recalled walking on Marshall Street when she spotted Broiadwater, writing that she “knew his face had been the face over me in the tunnel,” after looking “directly at him.”

She noted in the memoir that she failed to identify Broadwater in a police lineup, picking a different man as her assailant because “the expression in his eyes told me that if we were alone, if there were no wall between us, he would call me by name and then kill me.”

Sebold said she was informed that the man she picked in the lineup looked “almost identical” to the man she’d previously identified as her attacker, but according to the Times, she was told the men were friends who’d conspired to confuse her.

Anthony Broadwater
Anthony Broadwater / YouTube screenshot

Sebold said she imagined that during the trial, the defense would be “a panicked white girl saw a Black man on the street. He spoke familiarly to her and in her mind she connected this to her rape. She was accusing the wrong man.”

Per the AP, the DA apologized privately to Broadwater before the court hearing on Monday.

“When he spoke to me about the wrong that was done to me, I couldn’t help but cry,” Broadwater said. “The relief that a district attorney of that magnitude would side with me in this case, it’s so profound, I don’t know what to say.”

theGrio’s Ny Magee contributed to this report.

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